Sunday, April 15, 2012

My buddy explained to me how baseball is an analogy for The American Way. Everyone gets a go at the bat. If you hit a home run, that’s great. If you strike out, that’s your lot. It’s very meritocratic, with no prejudice and ample rewards for the talented.

Then there’s the complex relationship between the individual and the team. At face value, baseball’s an individualist sport because it’s all about the man at the bat. He swings, he runs, he’s in command of his destiny. But he’s also playing for the team, and sometimes sacrifices have to be made. If someone’s already at third base, the goal of the batter is to hit the ball far enough to allow his teammate to get to fourth – accepting that he’ll probably get taken out himself as he sprints to first. It’s a reminder that a necessary ingredient for the flourishing of the individual is the health and the wealth of the people around him. For you to succeed, others must succeed, too – and as with baseball teams, so with nations. We’re all in this together.

Another, more stark, reminder of that truth is the role that military pageantry plays at a baseball game. At the start of the contest, the CIA honour guard trooped the colours and we were all invited to stand and applaud the folks serving in the US military. But nothing prepared me for the moving rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, as sung by a female soldier in combat fatigues. The stadium stood proudly – hats clasped to chests – as she powerfully, beautifully sang the national anthem. “Does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave/ O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” It sure does.

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